Here I think the answer is really a preference issue. Some people swear by agave nectar for everything from hot tea to lemonade. Others use stevia in yogurt smoothies and hot cocoa. Dieters wanting more sweetness sprinkle sucralose on their food. Natural flavorings such as cinnamon, cocoa or nutmeg can add a twist to your regular cup.
Coffee aficionados say to drink it pure! If you’re sweetening your coffee because it is too bitter, then you can change the beans or the roast first. Connoisseurs suggest high-end brands of 100% pure Arabica whole beans. I have always had good luck with 100% Kona whole beans. Whichever variety you choose, avoid a dark roast which can ruin the beans and produce a charred burnt flavor.
How you grind and brew it can make a difference, too. A coarser grind will reduce the extraction of bitter compounds from the beans. If you can adjust temperature on your coffee maker so that the water is less hot the extraction will be less deep. Another way to cure a cup after brewing is to add a small pinch of salt to your mug. The sodium ions break off and prevent all the bitter molecules from stimulating your tongue.
Reading the wealth of information on coffee science might reveal more tips, but I think your question really begs the question of sweeteners. Honestly, if you don’t want sugar then turn to a natural sweetener first (agave or stevia), then try a blend (sucralose) before turning to a fully artificial alternative (aspartame, saccharin).
– Debbie J., MS, RD
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